Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Katzman’s Cinema Komments # 8–2/23/08

Filed under: Humor,Jewish Themes,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments,Love and Romance — Bob at 1:29 pm on Saturday, February 23, 2008

Baby Boom (1987), one of my favorite fish-out-of-water romantic movies is closely related to Doc Hollywood (1991), both depicting very self-assured, smug, sophisticated, highly educated New York City people who unashamedly act openly condescending toward rural towns and types.

Both involve an unexpected re-evaluation of core values, re-categorizing old priorities and slowing w-a-a-a-a-a-y down.  Or, to quote Simon and Garfunkle (both men, unbelievably, now creeping toward seventy years old!) : Slow down! You move too fast! Got to make…the moment last…just kickin’ ’round the cobblestones………………

This week, I’ll attempt to transmit the magical romance that the first film, Baby Boom, bathes me in whenever I see it.  Farm Country real estate brokers ought to make seeing this sweet film a requirement before they show city people rural acreage, and perhaps make those buyers more aware of what already is, doesn’t need an injection of giant and ugly boxy architecture just because there’s so much land available at much cheaper than big city prices.  Just because a person can afford to dramatically change his surroundings doesn’t mean that is reason enough to do it.  Charm is a fragile thing.

Diane Keaton, the film’s star, unlike most film heroines is more linear than curvy, yet to me she conveys an irresistible allure of intelligence, spontaneity, unorthodox speech patterns and pronunciation, sexy indignation and exasperation, studied humorous theatricality in her movements and gestures and did I mention I think she’s beautiful?  Not just twenty years ago, but today too?

Well, she’s the dream schiksa to me.  Endlessly interesting to watch on the big screen, and the little one, too.

She’s an account manager of some big name companies in a high-powered marketing firm, who has chosen to remaine single because she’s ‘married to her career’ and no man she’s met yet has the stuff to deter her from her hungry ambition to dominate her surroundings and be universally recognized for her accomplishments.  She is the self-described “Tiger-Lady” and buddy— you better stay out of her way.

She lives with Harold Ramis (sometimes an actor, usually with old pal Bill Murray, but mostly a director, notably for Groundhog Day (1993), a cinematic existential experience for me, and therefore, immortal.) who in this film has a small part as the perfect insensitive, self-absorbed schmuck who is comically unattractive, un-sexual and uninvolved with whatever concerns Keaton.  But he serves the purpose of making it so clear to the audience when Keaton eventually meets the right guy for her, just how right he really is, way before she understands that fact herself.

Keaton’s unstoppable forward motion, despite her irritating encounters with her firm’s sexism toward her, principally perpetrated by the company’s driven kingpin (actor and theater director Sam Wanamaker-1919 to 1993, from the old West Side of Chicago, same as my grandparents, and in real life, a terrific guy.  He moved to Britain after World War ll to avoid the McCarthy anti-leftist Witch Hunt and then stayed, later single-handedly becoming the man who was responsible for the resurrection of the exact copy of Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theater on almost its exact original spot near the Thames River, in London, in the 1970’s.  Also interesting, to me anyway, is that Shakespeare lived at a time of rampant anti-Semitism in England, yet Wanamaker, who was the person most responsible for the perpetuation of his memory and great works, was a Jew.) who essentially tells Keaton coldheartedly that his children and grandchildren are irrelevant to him and that business requires 100% of one’s attention to become successful.  Keaton partially believes him.  She doesn’t know though, that her brainwashing by him isn’t total, not yet, until later in the story.

In a fast-moving scene, she quickly learns by a transatlantic phone call that her closest living relative, in England, has died suddenly in a violent car crash and left her an unknown but an evidently highly unusual inheritance.  Although initially tickled at the idea of receiving something possibly very valuable from people whom she was barely aware of (a castle, money, a title of some sort…) she is dumbfounded to learn she is now the only person in her family left to receive…a newborn female child.

It is one of several very moving moments in a movie disguised as a comedy, but is really about making the right choices in a life filled with all the temptations of the wrong choices.  The same is true for Doc Hollywood, but that’s for next week.

I won’t tell you all the many, many convolutions Keaton goes through to find true love, a new life in a very small town and discovering that being a sudden mother trumps every other single ambition she thought she had, and then realizing that, her entire existence is uprooted and torn apart.  Strong stuff for a supposed comedy.  Even though I know where all the teary parts are, the tears still come on cue, like I’m electrically connected to the story.

There are many parts in this film played by unrecognizable bit players, and played so well.  Also music that seems perfectly matched to the mood you’re watching, lovely music.

Playwright Sam Sheppard, a some-time actor, is the large-animal veterinarian she meets cute and then falls for.  He’s twangy, country and apparently oblivious to his good looks even as his sexy female students in his University class swoon around him.  I eventually realized that those hot coeds served the single purpose in the movie to get it across to Keaton that the Doc is a real catch.

Andy (died 2012) and Opie from TV’s Mayberry aren’t in this movie, but all the other people either of them ever met on that show seem to be.  The charm of this gentle new world with its homey values and intimate relationships which Keaton finds herself involuntarialy stuck in, initially repels her as gooey Rockwellian kitsch.  But, as they say, resistance is futile.

She finds credibility, warmth, a work ethic she didn’t know existed, true love, a village wide interest and concern for children and friendship, and too everyone’s amazement, especially Keaton’s…a chance to make something of herself in a larger way than she ever imagine in New York City, without compromising her newly found values in her cozy little world.

The scene just before the last one, where the Devil comes to tempt her with MILLIONS of dollars, if only she’ll dump all she’s learned that has real meaning in her life, is one of the most satisfying in this great movie.

I learned, after numerous viewings of this movie, to watch for the small but key moment where when Keaton addresses all the powerful men in her old New York company’s corporate boardroom about the reasons for her final decision, mentioning the new guy in her life in an off-handed oblique way, of all the people there—only the heretofore nearly invisible female stenographer immediately gets it.  And then the stenographer smiles, with empathetic glee.

Now, that’s an valuable actress whoever she is. She makes the moment golden, but only the audience can share the secret understanding.  I find it to be powerfully intimate and wonderful to see, no matter how many times.

In no way a mystery to that lowly employee, nevertheless, she clearly sees and really understands what none of the high-powered suits sitting all around those two women just can’t seem to comprehend.

Love matters, if you’re lucky enough to find it.

Rent the movie.  Pop the popcorn.  Keep the Kleenex box close. You’ll need it, I promise.

See you, under the Flickering Lights…

Robert M. Katzman


If you enjoyed this column, please visit my book publishing web site at  www.FightingWordsPubco.com to learn much more about my four published, non-fiction books.  Who knows?  Maybe one of them will become a movie one day.  It could happen, you know…………..


Note from the Author:

Robert M. Katzman, owner of Fighting Words Publishing Company, with four different titles currently in print and over 4,000 books sold to date, is seeking more retail outlets for his vivid and non-fiction inspirational books: 


Independent bookstores, Jewish and other religious organizations, Chicago historical societies or groups, English teachers who want a new voice in their class who was a witness to history, book clubs, high schools or museum gift shops.  I will support anyone who supports me by giving readings in the Chicago Metro area.  I have done this over 40 times, and I always sign my books, when asked.  Everyone, positively everyone, asks.  I was amazed, at first, by that.


Individuals who wish to order my books can view the four book covers and see reviews of them at www.FightingWordsPubco.com 


There are links to YouTube and podcasts, as well.  Or, anyone can call me directly at (847) 274-1474.  Googling my name will also produce all kinds of unusual results.  That other Robert M. Katzman, now deceased, whose name will also appear and who also published, was a doctor.  He actually bought one of my books!  Such a nice man.  Rest in peace, Dr. Katzman.


There will be short poems, stories and essays published in this space every two weeks by either myself or my co-blogist Richard G. Munden, or both.  If you find our postings thought provoking, moving or even amusing, please tell others to come view this site.  We will find our strength in your numbers.


 Next year, I will publish my fifth book, a collection of my best poetry and essays, called,


        I Seek the Praise of Ordinary Men


Individuals who know of independent bookstores that might be interested in a rough-hewn guy like me, who ran a chain of newsstands for 20 years in Chicago, please tell them about my books, will you?  I am partial to independent bookstores, having owned two, myself, until my last one was killed by the giant chains, in 1994. I still miss it. 


I’m also looking to find someone who would want to make a play out of some of my stories in the Chicago area, so I could go there and do some readings sometimes.  I think there’s enough honest sex, drugs and rock n’ roll to hold anyone’s interest, as well as a lot of authentic dialogue from ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I think the plays would work anywhere, frankly, in some intimate theater with talented actors.


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